Today, it is cool to be associated with Boro and his struggle. But was Boro, as well as all he stood for, received warmly during his life time? Was Boro viewed, accepted and treated as the quintessential hero he was in his life time, even in Kaima, let alone the broader Ijaw land? Or was he rather seen as a villain, a trouble maker and a stubborn boy who was fighting the government instead of using his intellect to sing the praises of the government of his day? Did the vast majority of Ijaw People of Boro’s day accept and support his struggle.
Every year, on the 16th day of May, Ijaw people the world over gather to celebrate the life and times, struggles and ultimate sacrifice of the legendary visionary and revolutionary Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro. This year was not an exception.
As usual, many speeches were made and the virtues and exploits of our hero were extolled once more. In fact, this year, a most revered American Civil Rights Activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson came to town to identify with us. I will not bore us with details of this year’s program. Yet, suffice to say, I commend the Government of Bayelsa state for going all out to add more cement to the memory of Boro in the hearts of Ijaw folks and indeed all of mankind.
A hip-hop artist once said “you are nobody until someone kills you.” That is, people are celebrated more in death than in flesh. Little wonder Nasir “Nas” Jones said “You should idolize me in the flesh; don’t wait until am dead to say I was the best.” So as I reflect on the essence of the entire Boro Day Celebration, I cannot help but contemplate on the man Boro in flesh.
You are nobody until someone kills you. Is the Rapper Christopher Wallace better known as the Notorious B.I.G’s statement coming to life in Boro’s case? Was the man Boro idolised in flesh? Today, most of us in the Niger Delta shout “Boro!!!” We talk about his vision and how he took the bull by its horn in a China shop in the most perilous of times to breath life into his vision. We invoke the spirit of Boro to mobilize men and freely wear T-shirts bearing his handsome face. In essence – Today, it is cool to be associated with Boro and his struggle.
But was Boro, as well as all he stood for, received warmly during his life time? Was Boro viewed, accepted and treated as the quintessential hero he was in his life time, even in Kaima, let alone the broader Ijaw land? Or was he rather seen as a villain, a trouble maker and a stubborn boy who was fighting the government instead of using his intellect to sing the praises of the government of his day? Did the vast majority of Ijaw People of Boro’s day accept and support his struggle?
Please don’t read me wrongly; I am not trying to indict anyone or group here. My intention is to compel us to reflect on our actions, inactions and stances today and how we will be judged tomorrow. I am sure there were some who caught his vision, no matter how few. In fact, a senior friend of mine, Wilson Bio, who witnessed a reception given to Major Boro and his comrades in the ’60s speaks of that day with nostalgia. It still feels like yesterday to him.
Hear him: “One thing I can tell you, Boro was accepted in his heyday. He and his compatriots received heroes’ welcome on the day of their release from Kirikiri prison at Olowoyenyeye Ajegunle, Lagos. You should have been there to witness the huge crowd of Ijaws and non Ijaws alike. That picture is still fresh in my memory to date. Unfortunately,the ills he fought and died for are still mocking us all in the face like cancer that refused all medication.”
It’s good to know that. However, I refer to the early days of his struggle, before his arrest, trial and imprisonment. Before then, did the vast majority of Ijaw and Niger Delta folks share his vision? Even today, as we celebrate him, do we truly share his dreams and aspirations for his people? We host events to celebrate him now, yet, we persecute those who stand for the truths (Izon ye mo) he stood and died for.
Boro most likely would have led a peaceful and fruitful life and lived up to this day, perhaps enjoying his retirement; playing with his grand kids. But he did not. With his vision, drive, intellect and education, he would have been a success in any field he chose. With a Degree in Chemistry from the University of Nigeria,Nsuka, in those early years of Independence and his profile as Student Union President and his place of origin as an Ijaw man, where the oil was found, he could easily have gotten a good job at Shell or elsewhere and remained quiet, becoming a peaceful rich Shell employee.
But that was not Boro. He was a rugged soul with veins that run with the fire of justice, liberty, equality and egalitarianism, not mere red blood. So he chose to fight for the emancipation of his people from all forms of servitude and underdevelopment. Boro’s fight was essentially a fight to develop the Ijaw nation (which criss-crosses the length and breadth of the Niger Delta, from Arogbo to Finima, from Obolo to Famgbe, from Nembe to Ogulagha, from Egbema Toru to Ogu, Kiama to Abonema to Eastern Obolo) and the Ijaw man. Thus, the best way to celebrate Boro is to continue his struggle in our own ways.
Have those public office holders exploiting Boro’s persona today as a tool of socio-political mobilization been using the resources at their disposal to develop Ijaw land and the Ijaw people? Have we truly made the Ijaw man truly stronger than Boro left us? Or have we rather used same to oppress and persecute our kind? Have we promoted the true Boro incarnates of today or cast aspersions on them as I am sure many did against Boro in his days?
Have our elders taken the side of truth or they have stayed mute in the face of evil or even joined the evil doers? If Boro Day is to truly celebrate Boro, by building on his legacy, count me in. Otherwise, I’d rather organize my solo celebration or join like-minds who have been liberated to have ours.
Boro fought because he saw the Ijaw man living in abject penury in the midst of plenty. He saw Ijaw people drinking the same water they defecated in, and was dismayed. Has that changed today after this year’s celebration? He saw many towns and villages in pitch darkness despite the fact that the Oil and Gas that flow in them lit many cities elsewhere. Has that changed today after this year’s celebration? Boro fought to make sure no qualified, willing and able Ijaw man will be unemployed and have to fight for employment. But today, what’s our situation? The young Boro gave his life to reduce maternal and infant mortality, reduce poverty and inequality in the Niger Delta in general and Ijaw land in particular. How are we today? Have we grown bigger, better and wiser or just taller?
The way we treat ourselves today is a window into understanding how we view our kind, past, present and future. If we cannot treat our brothers and sisters who are alive today well, let’s not pretend that if Boro is to resurrect today, we will treat him better. I am convinced that if today was the ’60s, Boro will be fighting many of those ‘celebrating’ him today.
The life and times of Boro calls for real soul searching. We must ask ourselves how the man we claim to be celebrating today will feel about our actions and inactions. Take Bayelsa State of Nigeria for example, will he be happy with the way the state has been administered since 1999, when Ijaw sons became rulers to date?
Indeed Boro’s life deserves a special course of study in our schools. There are many good lessons to be learnt in the study of Boroism. Yet, just as Marxism is beyond Karl Marx, we must also not forget that Boro’s struggles and all he represents are beyond his single person. Today we talk of Boroism which is a body of thoughts that embody his struggle. Also, we must never forget those that fought along side the legend; because no army is made up of one man. His comrades all contributed their quota.
More so, we cannot claim to love the dead Boro without taking good care of his living comrades and family members. We have a poor reward culture. Our heroes and their labours are often forgotten so easily and quickly. This may not be unconnected with the fact that there is paucity of literature on our good men and women. Apart from Professors Alagoa, Tamunu, Derefaka, and a few other Ijaw historians, our stories are seldom documented and told properly to generations after the live witnesses of events.
I saw a list of Boro’s comrades today on Facebook, but curiously could not find the name of one Boardman Nyananyo, a most brilliant mathematician who abandoned his career in Benin to obey Boro’s clarion call to rise in the liberation of Ijaw Nation. Then, I ask myself, who are the ones compiling these lists? Why is that man not given his due? We will not know better days until we start recognising and rewarding the good deeds of good men and the bad works of bad men.
As we extol Boro’s virtues, we must ask ourselves again if Boro would have forgotten or neglected to honour his comrades like Nyananyo. Adaka Boro was a great lion and a force for good. So those who call his name must do so with clean hearts and a true commitment to further the cause he lived and die for. If we are not ready to do that, we should just let the brave soul of our great hero rest in peace.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Fortune God’sSon Alfred, a Public Policy/Affairs Analyst and a Development Consultant based in the Niger Delta. He tweets via @HRFKingFGA.
This article was first Published in TheScoopng.com on May 19, 2013